The “end of the civil war” on 31 March, 1939, meant only the cessation of hostilities and the total occupation of Spanish territory by “rebel forces” under the command of General Franco. For Spanish anti-fascists, for those who managed to go into exile as well as for those who remained at the mercy of “reprisals” by the triumphant rebels, the “end of the war” was the beginning of a long Calvary. Without a doubt it was the anarchist movement and its sympathizers that paid the heaviest penalty. Not only because Francoist repression was directed against it with greater brutality, but also because it received much less outside support than the other sectors, which could count on powerful organizations and associated parties in the “free world”. And so, when “liberation” came, Spanish anarchism—despite its contribution to the Allied triumph—found itself more isolated than ever.

The acceptance of Franco’s fascist regime by the Allied powers came as an immense disappointment for Spanish antifascism. For anarchism, this was the culmination of a process of counter-revolutionary struggle by international capitalism, more or less aided or tolerated by powers describing themselves as revolutionary and democratic.

For the Allied Powers—capitalist powers—it was normal to prefer Franco to the revolutionary renaissance of a people who had experienced fascism, and who, in these new conditions, might not only defeat the Spanish fascists but also contaminate the proletariat of the “free world”. The lack of enthusiasm on the part of the Soviet Union and its satellites in demanding Franco’s “head” can also be explained, as their leaders wanted and needed to control an eventual revolution in Spain, and knew that by effectively aiding the antifascist forces in exile and in the Interior, this control would be even more difficult to exercise than during the three years of “civil war”.

While commercial and other agreements were being resumed and diplomats were being exchanged, the “democracies” played out the farce of official “condemnation” of the Spanish totalitarian regime at the United Nations. This served to paralyse Spanish antifascist forces, which split by squabbling over fanciful hopes.

After a period of suffering and setbacks, after the violent annihilation of the most active groups, Spanish antifascism went into a period of disillusionment.

For Spanish anarchism, a long period of internal struggles and divisions began, starting with the “Confederal split” of 1945, which made the job of annihilating the most authentically revolutionary Spanish working class movement, which Franco was carrying out in the interior by his policy of repression, much easier.

It is true that the Libertarian Movement1 had suffered an enormous haemorrhage of militants, but it had succeeded in being so powerful and so popular that it still had enough influence and strength to regain the enthusiasm and popularity it had formerly enjoyed. Yet this did not happen, and from 1945 on its working class influence waned unceasingly.

At the end of 1945, Spanish anarchism had remained definitively split into two currents. These two “Movements” would not “reunite” until the end of 1961, after having made “war” on each other for fifteen years, and having wasted their best efforts in it. Their division and confrontations would discourage thousands of militants, leading them to turn aside from all “organic” activity, and devote themselves to “remaking their lives”... This haemorrhage of militants, tired of the rivalries between the committees that claimed to represent them, grew as the years passed and anti-Francoism’s defeats piled up: both in the area of clandestine struggle and in the international diplomatic “front”.

The other sectors of anti-Francoism, in exile and in the Interior, experienced a similar fate.

In May 1945, the first Congress of the Libertarian Movement and the CNT in Exile took place. It was at this Congress that the division of the CNT into two tendencies occurred: “one, ‘apolitical’, the one which would find expression in the Congress resolution, a majority in France and a minority in Spain; the other, ‘collaborationist’, stronger in the Interior, would be the moving spirit behind the National Alliance of Democratic Forces and its successive pacts and alliances.”2

In August of the same year, a Plenary Session of the National Committee of the CNT in Spain and in Exile was held. A delegate from Spain was present, whose intervention in favour of greater political activity by the CNT3, provoked a long discussion. At the end of the meeting, the division into two factions, already apparent at the May Congress, became more accentuated, and the split became an organizational reality. From then on, and until 1960, there would be two CNTs, both in Spain and in exile.

The division between apolitical libertarians and political libertarians4 was a consequence of the period of “anarchist collaboration in the government” during the civil war. This division was felt particularly acutely within the CNT, which admitted all workers regardless of their political sympathies on principle, even though one of its declared aims was “libertarian communism”. From its foundation in 1910, the times were few when the CNT did not suffer from internal struggles between reformist (revisionist) elements and the anarchists, whose specific task was to nourish and sustain the libertarian spirit with which its founders had imbued the Confederal organization.

As a consequence of this split at the August plenary session, and of the irreconcilable division between democratic forces and (communist) totalitarian forces, the CNT and the other branches of the MLE remained irremediably isolated in the context of the international anti-Francoist and anti-fascist movements.

A result of this was a movement towards the progressive reaffirmation of the purest principles of revolutionary anarchism.

In September 1945, Horacio Martinez Prieto was designated Minister of Public Works in the Giral government, as a representative of the “collaborationist” CNT. As a consequence of the progressive abandonment by the Communist Party5 and the remnants of the Republican officers and ex-militiamen grouped in the A.F.A.R.E.6 of armed harassment of the Francoist forces, the Spanish Libertarian Movement was, for a number of years, the only instigator of subversive action by armed groups, principally in Aragon and Catalonia.

This should not come as a surprise, if one bears in mind that once the only attempts at liberating Spain in 1944 had failed and the idea of the necessity of actions in the Interior had been abandoned—a position based on the erroneous conviction that Francoism was breaking up, itself based on the illusion created by the separation from it of Don Juan’s monarchists—all of the parties and groups in exile saw in the victors of the Second World War the Deus ex machina of the Spanish situation, and placed themselves in a position of total dependence on the victorious powers.

The libertarian action groups, like the guerrilla nuclei that still remained in the peninsula, were gradually abandoned to their fate in the face of Francoist repression.

In brief, it could be said that if the vital question for the Francoist regime in this period was resisting, for the anti-Francoist, it was waiting for others to solve his own problem.

So it is not surprising that the events that occurred throughout these years confirmed this attitude, and finally led anti-Francoism from a political impasse to decay and breakup.

There is no need to go any further into the series of manoeuvres and counter-manoeuvres, pacts and defections, crises and reconstitutions of the Republican government in exile, on which all the political sectors in exile spent most of their energy during the whole of this period, while the regime continued its repressive work in the Interior, directed against those who attempted to reorganize trade union structures, opposition parties and armed resistance groups in clandestinity.

Thus, breakups of clandestine opposition committees succeeded each other in the interior. The CNT, in its two factions, and the MLE had to face up to a veritable haemorrhage of militants.

As evidence of this bloody repression, we will cite a few cases, taken from the book España Hoy, which attracted attention at the time because of the personalities of the militants who were killed:

In March 1947: “ Several anarchists were shot, among whom were Amador Franco and Antonio Lopez. They had been captured by the Guardia Civil after a confrontation in Irun; the commando unit they were leading had a portable radio transmitter.”

In June 1948: “The Barcelona police launched a gigantic manhunt to capture Raul Carbeillera, an Argentinian anarchist who led the action groups of the CNT; he had crossed the frontier on several occasions to foment direct action by the Resistance. After his group had a confrontation with the police, an operation in the course of which a militant and several policemen died, the Social Brigade decided to capture the man they considered their principal enemy, because of his importance as an organizer and his daring in action. On June 26, surrounded by the police and the Guardia Civil in Montjuich, he killed himself.”

In November of the same year: “A court-martial in Barcelona tries CNT militants José Lopez and Jose Gonzales Puig. They are sentenced to death, and the first is shot immediately.”

In February 1949: “A court-martial tries eight CNT militants; Marcos Nadal, accused of being the Secretary General, is sentenced to death.”

In March of the same year: “An attack takes place on the car of Piñol Ballester, chief secretary of the (Falangist) Youth Front. Piñol Ballester and the chauffeur die, hit by several bullets. A few days later, the police announce that those responsible were discovered, and that three of them died during the fight.”

In November of the same year: “The police surprise twenty CNT militants in Barcelona. A police officer and six cenetistas, one of whom was José Sabater Llopart, die in the fight. A little later, five other members of the CNT are arrested. The police announce the breakup of ‘four gangs’ ... A court-martial meets in Zarragoza to try cenetista Cruz Navarro, who is sentenced to death ... Near La Coruña, there is a confrontation between the CNT and the police, in the course of which seven anarchist militants die ... In Barcelona, a court-martial sentences to death cenetista Lopez Penedo, accused of having killed a police superintendent. He is executed.”

In February 1950: “On the 24th, Manuel Sabater Llopart is garrotted in Barcelona prison. An anarchist militant, he was accused of having secretly crossed the frontier to take part in the Resistance. One of the main reasons for his death sentence is the fact that he is the brother of Francisco Sabater, a well-known member of the anarchist action groups.”

In November 1951: “On the 14th, 75 members of the CNT are tried in Seville prison, accused of reorganizing their union and aiding guerrillas, particularly for their attempt to evacuate a group of guerrillas by sea in 1949. Two death sentences were handed down, against Antonio Nuñez and Dionisio Rueda, and the others are sentenced to terms ranging from eight to thirty years’ imprisonment, most of them over fifteen years.”

In February 1952: “A court-martial tries 30 CNT militants who have been in detention for two years. The sentences are from 2 to 30 years in prison and there are eleven death sentences, of which five are carried out.”

In August 1957: “On the 30th, José Luis Facerias is assassinated by the police in Barcelona. He was a veteran leader of the anarchist action groups, which had been operating since the end of the civil war. The ‘implacable fighter’ died riddled with bullets in an ambush laid by the police at the intersection of Urrutia and Verdun Streets.”

“And so on ... until the death of Francisco Sabater Llopart, in January, 1960.”

Despite the repression and the precarious assistance from those in exile and from the big international trade union organizations, the Spanish working class initiated, from 1947 onwards, a series of movements of protest and wage demands that the Regime could not always easily stifle or put down. But the end result was always the same; Francoism ended up brutally imposing its order, and the painful consequences of these setbacks were heaped on the backs of the working masses.

In 1949, “the political epoch came to an end on an optimistic note for Franco. In the Interior, he had practically eliminated the whole traditional working-class opposition: its leaders were in prison, the activists and guerrillas either dead or executed, and public order seemed to be assured for a long time (...) In opposition circles, the feeling grew that the best opportunity for a rapid conclusion had gone, without any advantage having been taken of it (...)”7.

There was an important triumph for Francoist diplomacy in 1950. In August, the American Congress voted an amendment to its Allocation of Credits Bill, granting a maximum credit of $62,500,000 to Spain. In November, the General Assembly of the UN decided to annul the resolution which recommended that member states recall their ambassadors from Madrid, and forbade Spain’s membership in any of the United Nation’s international institutions.

In spite of this, the PSOE and the other political forces of the opposition persisted in their illusory hopes of a solution from outside ... and faced with their abandonment by the Americans, turned toward a “Europe which was taking its first tentative steps towards unification ...”

The letter which Don Juan sent to Franco in July, 1951 brought fresh disappointment to “the democratic anti-Francoist opposition”: the PSOE and the sectors which had signed the “Pact of San Juan de Luz”8. The PSOE could do nothing but break the pact and abandon its policy of agreements with the monarchist forces, a policy which had been the cause of so many confrontations and divisions within anti-Francoism.

During the same year, the celebrated interview between Franco and American Admiral Forrest Sherman took place, which initiated negociations on the use of bases by American military forces. This was in the middle of the “cold war”, and the United States government, having definitively lowered its mask, gave up its “democratic scruples” and started a long period of political, economic and military collaboration with the Francoist regime.

In the same year, spectacular mass movements took place in Barcelona, Vizcaya and Guipuzcoa. As in previous years, and in those to come, this kind of protest movement would not succeed in spreading throughout the country. Like the student movements, they would only constitute heroic testimony to struggles against, and refusal of, the Regime by broad sectors of the working class and Spanish youth.

These popular struggles had a profound influence on the politicization of the Spanish university system, and on the appearance of “new political generations”, opposed to the Regime, inside the country. At the same time, they demonstrated the sterility and opportunism of the Communist Party’s so-called policy of “national reconciliation”9.

The years 1952-55 allowed Franco to win new diplomatic victories10. In the interior, this period was marked by the development of a policy of rapid and uncontrolled industrialization, an increase in social conflicts, and the public confirmation of Falangist opposition to the monarchists and liberal intellectuals.

The socialists and Republicans redoubled their efforts to obtain the support of Western European governments, while the communists carried on their work of “infiltrating” legal organizations, multiplying their contacts with, and advances to, this new “opposition”. For their part, the libertarians went into a long period of acceptance of the status quo, which caused them to progressively lose ground and members, and would lead to the disappearance of the CNT and MLE from the forefront of the day-to-day struggles of the anti-Francoist opposition.

At the beginning of 1957, with the reorganization of the government, Franco (without dissimulation) opened the way to power for Opus Dei, which presented itself as a lobby of technocrats “with no political leanings”. The sacrifice of Falangist “leftism” was obvious. The Regime turned conclusively in the direction of “liberalization”, which would lead to its reconciliation with democratic and capitalist Europe, without this sacrifice of dogmatic and nostalgic ones in any way meaning a sacrifice of the “hard-liners”. The appointment of General Alonso Vega, the hardest of hard-liners, as Minister of the Interior was a clear indication of the Regime’s firm decision to continue the “severity” of its repression of opposition activities, as was evident in the repression of student movements, and on the occasion of the memorable strike by Asturian miners in March 1958.

This period coincided with the appearance of the new political generations inside the country, which aroused varied and conflicting reactions among the exiles; some regarded the phenomenon with grave suspicion, and others, especially the communists, tried to win over part of these “new generations” with their “days of national reconciliation” in May 1958, and the abortive “peaceful national strike” of June 1959.

During this period, Spain was subjected to a “galloping inflation” which threatened the very survival of the Francoist economic system. The USA intervened to save the Spanish economy with credits and international loans. Finally, the tourist industry, in full expansion, began to become a solid economic prop of the regime. In anticipation of the possible “subversive” effects of the presence of tourists from democratic countries, Alonso Vega prepared to apply the new “Law of Public Order”, promulgated in June 1959, which sought to present the repression with a more judicial facade. There would be no more death sentences ... The regime’s nascent but certain Europeanist “vocation” made this advisable! But in January of the following year, “at dawn, on the 4th, in the neighbourhood of Banolas (Gerona), a fight occurred between the forces of the Guardia Civil and an anarchist commando group which had crossed the frontier six days before. Four members of the commando group died in the gunfire, as well as the officer commanding the Civil Guards, Francisco de Fuentes. The leader of the group, Francisco Sabater Llopart, was wounded, and although he managed to escape, was killed the next day in San Celoni by a sometén (Catalan militia). The episode caused a sensation in the country as a survival from the old resistance days.”

Two months later, Antonio Abad Donoso was garroted after having been condemned to death by a court-martial sumnarissime, on a charge of terrorism11.

The last two years of the period we are analyzing in this chapter, in order to introduce and facilitate a better understanding of the chapters that follow, were decisive ones for the birth of new currents and new concerns within opposition movements in the interior and in exile. The fall of some Latin American dictatorships, notably Batista’s, awakened new hopes. The Castroist epic of the Sierra Maestra and the final triumph of the revolutionary forces had a great impact on the anti-Francoists, and stimulated the rebirth of direct action tendencies.

Francoism had continued to advance in the direction of recognition and the consolidation of its position at the international level, asserting itself triumphantly by President Eisenhower’s visit to General Franco in December 1959. At the internal level, although the Economic Council of the OECE considered that the first phase of the stabilization program had fully succeeded, the working class had suffered badly from the effects of stabilization, which had brought about a significant increase in unemployment and emigration. All these factors had contributed to the evolution toward a certain form of opposition by Catholic working class sectors and intellectuals, which had already begun several years earlier.

In late 1960, Spain underwent a profound economic crisis. Tourism, emigration, “external aid” and an implacable repression allowed the regime to minimize the risks at the internal level. Despite this—and although in such circumstances the threat of firings forces workers to limit protest movements and strikes—the anti-Francoist opposition became active and experienced significant transformations.

The exiled organizations became aware of what was going on, and decided to bury their old quarrels and put an end to their internal splits under pressure from a rank and file, which, conscious of the process of extinction that support for the status quo had led it to, rediscovered its enthusiasm and need to struggle.

Spanish anarchism prepared to accelerate the organizational process of Confederal reunification. The death of Francisco Sabate Llopart and the heroic end of his group, the formation of marginal groups within the two factions of the CNT—oriented toward Confederal unity and radicalization of the struggle against Franco—pressures from other sectors of the anti-Francoist movement for a Union Alliance (CNT-UGT-STV) and a new alliance of democratic forces; all of these factors brought about a majority current in favour of unity in both factions of the CNT, and finally led to the accords which made it possible.


A fusion of the syndical (CNT—National Confederation of Labour), specific (FAI—Iberian Anarchist Federation), and youth (FIJL—Iberian Federation of Libertarian Youth) branches.
2 España Hoy, by Fernandez de Castro and Jose Martinez (Paris: Ruedo Iberico, 1963).
3 At the May Congress, the majority tendency had approved the following resolution: “(...) The Movement and the Confederation, freely, and from the rank and file up, ratify their direct action tactics of struggle against the State and their revolutionary anarchist-socialist principles.”
4 The expression “libertarian” began to be used more than that of “anarchist”, particularly among militants of the collaborationist tendency, who were called “scissionists” and “reformists” by those of the other tendency.
5 “During the summer of 1944, groups of Spaniards who had fought in the Resistance in France, at the initiative of the Juntas of National Union, and under the political control of the Spanish Communist Party, prepared to liberate their country (...). An attempt to invade along the whole frontier was made by these groups, mainly in the Valle de Aran; it was repulsed by Francoist troops who captured three or four thousand of the participants in the invasion.” (España Hoy).
6 The A.F.A.R.E. (Association of Spanish Republican Armed Forces) was constituted in January 1945. “It is led by a Committee of professional soldiers, most of whom are Republican. Its activity is basically directed to the rebuilding of the organizational structure of the Republican Army (...). Armed actions by it were very rare (...). In March 1947, a wave of arrests brought about its dismantling.” (España Hoy)
7 España Hoy.
8 “I have carefully avoided”, wrote Don Juan, “identifying the Crown with any partisan movement ... my hands are free of any ties or pacts concerning the future (...) this does not mean that I am ignorant of the activities of monarchist elements which have sought, entirely under their own responsibility, with a mind to the future, to neutralize any possible revolutionary tendency among the anticommunist sectors of Spanish workers, by leading them in the direction of social and patriotic cooperation (...) I have been accused, maliciously I believe, in anti-monarchist propaganda, of not having identified myself with the National Movement (...) let us come to an agreement so as to prepare a stable regime (...)”
9 At a meeting of its Central Committee in June 1956, the Spanish Communist Party openly formulated its policy of “national reconciliation”: “(...) the Party reached the conclusion that there was a strong possibility of an agreement to struggle against the dictatorship between forces which, twenty years before, had fought on opposite sides. The possibility of suppressing the dictatorship without going through a civil war became something feasible. These conclusions led the Party to formulate the policy of National Reconciliation.” (España Hoy).
10 Spain’s admission into UNESCO in November 1952; the signing of a Concordat with the Holy See in August 1953; the signing of the “Madrid pact” on the joint uses of bases in Spain by Spanish and American forces in September of the same year; a new meeting between Franco and Don Juan at Caceres in December 1954; the Congress of the Inter-Parliamentary Union allows the admission of Francoist Spain in August 1955; the entry of Spain into the UNO; etc.
11 In March “(...) two bombs exploded in Madrid, one in City Hall and the other in the hands of the man who carried it. According to identification papers found on the victim, he was Ramon Pérez Jurado, aged 27. Three other unexploded bombs were found. The Iberian Revolutionary Directorate of Liberation (DRIL) claims responsibility for the bombings.” (España Hoy).